Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2014 9:48 am | Updated: 3:45 pm, Sun Aug 24, 2014.
By ESTHER AVILA firstname.lastname@example.org
STRATHMORE — A group of individuals are doing all they can to bring a boys and girls club to Strathmore.
“We’re hoping to open by September 2015, but if we can open earlier, we will,” said Maureen Loeffler.
A committee that includes parents, teachers, a school board member and a Tulare County Sheriff deputy, among others, has been meeting since early 2013.
Tammy Mitchell approached the Strathmore Union School District Board in the latter part of 2012 after her son, Michael Avalos, was murdered at age 19.
“He joined a gang when he was young and I tried and tried to get him out of the gang,” Mitchell said. “He finally got out when he was 18 but was killed in September of that year.”
Avalos was stabbed and burned, his mother said.
“Instead of sitting down and doing nothing, I thought I’d get involved in something. I know Michael would want that. We just had to get up and do something for the children of Strathmore,” Mitchell said. “These children are so gullible to crime and gangs. I wanted to provide them with something to do and somewhere to go.”
The club will be geared towards students in grades 4-8.
But starting a new program such as a Boys and Girls Club requires a lot of work.
Mitchell, along with Strathmore School Board member Adele Sanchez, decided to spearhead a committee to raise funds for a new club.
“It takes $70,000 to run the club for one year,” Loeffler said. “We are more than half way there but need to keep fundraising and collecting funds.”
Sponsors are needed, Loeffler said, who are willing to commit to two to five years.
“It’s a big undertaking to raise the funds,” said Gail Grasmick, a recently-retired eighth-grade instructor who has taught in Strathmore for 27 years.
The committee would prefer to start with a small club and grow, rather than to start but not be able to continue. They plan to have one director, one other staff person and several volunteers.
“We don’t want to open a Boys and Girls Club this year and then not have enough money to keep it going a second year,” Loeffler said. “We want to have enough to keep it going. We don’t want to be behind.”
Currently, there are close to 800 students in the Strathmore Union School District. The district also has a couple of after-school programs, including HEART and Choices, but they are a bit restrictive for the older students.
“They require you are there every day or they take you out of the program,” Loeffler said.
“It’s another opportunity to get involved,” Sanchez said, praising all the volunteers in the schools and with Pop Warner football.
And with Strathmore located halfway between Porterville and Lindsay, local students can’t get to the bigger programs in the larger towns.
“Transportation is a big problem,” Sanchez said. “They can’t walk to Lindsay.”
But with the Boys and Girls Club, students are allowed to attend when their schedule allows it. And when they do attend, they can receive homework help, play basketball or indoor games, and have a place to hang out with friends, under supervision, instead of being unsupervised at home alone. Snacks will also be provided.
In addition, homework help, crafts, and occasionally specialty lessons or classes, will be offered.
And they won’t have to go far to get there. The Boys and Girls Club will be located in the youth-group room at Grace Bible Fellowship church, directly across the street from Strathmore Elementary School.
The room has tables and chairs, couches, a pool table, air hockey, a foosball table and an outdoors basketball court.
“Life is all about choices,” Mitchell said. “We are here to help them make the right choices.”
Organizers are planning a variety of fundraisers, including a huge parking lot sale that will feature everything from clothing, baby stuff, small appliances, furniture and other household items including electronics and lawn equipment.
The sale is slated for Sept. 6 at Grace Bible Fellowship, 23059 Ave 198, Strathmore, California 93267 from 7:00AM to 2:00 PM.